Riots. Flash mobs. Vioelnt protests. Beatings of innocent bystanders.

WTF is wrong with people? And I don’t mean it in a “Double you tee eff, mate?” kind of way. I mean it in a “What the FUCK is going on in this country?” kind of way.

None of this news of violent youth and civil unrest is new lately, and city after city in the US is making headlines now since the spark of the UK violence. Maybe the US attacks would have happened anyways. Or maybe the angsty youth got their inspiration from their British brethren. You’ll have to ask them. And while you’re at it, ask them why they’re doing the things that they’re doing. Ask them why they’re beating up innocent people at state fairs in Milwaukee. Ask them why they’re starting riots in Philadelphia for which they need to be treated like children and have curfews. Ask them why they’re flash robbing a 7-11 in Maryland. Please ask them, because I have absolutely no idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about protesting injustice and standing up for what you believe in, rising up against the man and civil disobedience. But let’s put the emphasis on the word “civil.” If I have a problem with the way something’s run, if I’m in a class that’s being put down and kept down, if I see social injustice and I want to do something about it, stealing a Big Gulp is the last way I’d go about doing it. (In fact, one of the ways I recently voiced my discontent was by writing and article to the local paper, and it got more productive attention than any flash mob could have.) Look at all the successful peaceful protestors in history, like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The entire Civil Rights movement in the United States was based on standing up to injustice in a peaceful, and ultimately successful, manner.

Some equally outraged people tell me, “Yea these riots are stupid, but they’re just dumb teenagers, of course they want to incite violence.” Of course? As in, that’s supposed to be obvious? Personally, I can’t even fathom that desire. Maybe that’s one of my shortcomings, but I honestly have never felt the need or want to destroy something in my community. I have never felt the desire to physically hurt someone, to cause damage to personal property, or to steal something.

Ok, that’s not entirely true. When I was 3 I stole a pack of stickers. My mom made me return them.

But these kids aren’t 3. These kids have hit puberty, they know right from wrong, they know how adults should act. Sure they have a whole swarm of hormones flowing around that they don’t know what to do with, but why the inclination towards destruction? It’s counter intuitive to our entire evolution. You should want to preserve your community, both the physical surroundings and the people within it, to ensure survival. So I repeat: What the fuck are they thinking?

When I read stories about wrongful deaths at the hands of trigger happy police officers, I feel enraged. But when peaceful protests turn awry and then there’s talk about banning cell service and social networking sites, a whole new level of ire surfaces. Do these people not know what cause and effect is? Do they not know what their actions entail? In San Francisco and other cities they’re cutting cell phone service in certain areas so people can’t get texts about where the flash mob should meet. There’s talk in every city of censoring social media websites so that people can’t communicate via Twitter or Facebook. If there’s anything I hate more than violence, it’s censorship.

As the brilliant Ben Franklin once said, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

When I lived in Tunisia during Ben Ali’s rule, I learned that the reason why half the Internet was blocked by the government was for our protection, to keep the extremists out and to protect the citizens from violence, obscenity, and radical ideas. Look how well that turned out for them. Living in that restrictive society has made me value my freedoms so much more, and why anyone would ever do something to compromise that is beyond me.

The next step to uncontrollable violence is always censorship. Both the police and the people participating in the flash mobs realize that the citizens outnumber the police force. So when a good ‘ol crack down doesn’t do the trick, instead of actually reflecting on the underlying issues behind the unrest (such as lack of jobs, racism, rising food costs, disappointment in leadership, etc), those in power will choose to point the fingers at our essential 1st Amendment rights.  Why? Well that I at least know the answer to: because it’s easier than pointing the finger at themselves. When UK Prime Minister Cameron blamed his country’s riots on the “moral collapse” and lack of personal responsibility and accountability of its citizens, I felt like the same could be said of the government and those in charge.

We know what happens when the people can’t control themselves; the government controls us instead. Is that what we really want? Since these dumbass kids obviously don’t understand the immediate consequences of their reckless actions, I’d be hard pressed to think they understand the devastating long term effects they’re creating. For a generation who grew up with a mouse or smart phone permanently attached to their hands, I’d hope that they will soon come to appreciate how rare that freedom is, and how quickly it can be taken away if they don’t stop their collective temper tantrum.

Kids, you’re not being cool, you’re not starting a movement of reform, you’re not making a good name for yourself, and you’re certainly not above the law. For the love of everything good in the world, grow up already.

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